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President Trump Has Some Awfully Kind Words For Kim Jong Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with U.S. President Trump during their summit on June 12 in Singapore.
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with U.S. President Trump during their summit on June 12 in Singapore.

Politics — and real life — brim with contradictions and insincerities. Sometimes, that's for the best.

Winston Churchill despised communism and Josef Stalin. But when Adolf Hitler's Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Churchill leaped to support Stalin's USSR and explained, "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

Richard Nixon used to refuse to recognize what was once called Red China. But he went to China to meet Mao Zedong in 1972 and flattered The Great Helmsman by telling Mao he had read the chairman's poetry. They both joked about Henry Kissinger. Nixon told Mao that they had many differences but that "what brings us together is a recognition of a new situation in the world."

Leaders of free countries sometimes look around that world and make accommodations with power and reality, including despots. They do this for economic reasons and national security. But President Trump sounded almost besotted after meeting Kim Jong Un this week in Singapore.

He told Greta Van Susteren on the Voice of America that the man he used to mock as "Little Rocket Man" has "a great personality. He's a funny guy, he's very smart."

Kim Jong Un, funny guy.

The president told Bret Baier on Fox News, "When you take over a country — a tough country, tough people — and you take it over from your father, I don't care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have. If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean, that's 1 in 10,000 that could do that."

Of course, Kim also had the advantage of his father's police state to kill his half-brother, his uncle and other potential opponents.

When Baier pointed out Kim's regime imprisons, tortures and kills his own people, Trump replied, "Yeah, but so have other people done some really bad things. I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done."

And Friday, the president told Fox & Friends, "He's the head of a country — and I mean he's the strong head. He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same."

The president said later that he was "kidding" and that reporters don't understand sarcasm. Actually, I think sarcasm is one thing reporters do understand.

It would be good for the world if the president is right when he tweets, "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." Some experts experienced in North Korea and nuclear politics are skeptical.

But the president has fawned so much about Kim since their meeting, you might wonder if he is simply flattering a man with nuclear missiles or exalting the kind of leader he truly admires?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.